September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Throughout the month of September, we will be learning about ways to prevent suicide as well as how to recognize the many warning signs of a person who is contemplating suicide. I firmly believe that we should always be ready to address the issue of suicide; not just in the month of September. There have been plenty of articles posted in regard to helping a child or a significant other; but what if you have a friend who is contemplating suicide? This blog post is coming from personal experience, as I once helped a friend choose life over suicide. It can be a pretty emotional and intense subject. Here are 5 ways to help a suicidal friend.
If someone just seems different or is acting unusual, don’t ignore it
Changes in behavior are normally one of the first signs to look for in someone who is contemplating suicide. For example, if your friend usually always answers the phone when you call but is now avoiding you. Another one could be, maybe your friend has a big appetite, but has now been skipping meals or has stopped eating altogether because they just “have no appetite” or “can’t bring themselves to eat at all.” No matter what the behavior is: if they are acting in a way that is unusual for them, and you’re instincts are telling you something’s not right….trust your instincts.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
There’s a disproven idea that bringing up the subject of suicide can actually trigger those thoughts in someone who is already suicidal. Again, this is a myth. In fact, the most important thing you can do is ask. Among other things, it lets the person know you are ready and open to talk with them about it. If you go down this path, it is important to know how to talk to them. Some things to remember are: try not to get emotional, don’t be argumentative (don’t talk down to them! Treat them like normal human beings that are in immense emotional pain). Express empathy. This will help the person know they can trust you with these feelings or thoughts; making it easier for them to open up to you now and in the future.
After you’ve asked, keep them safe.
Remove all lethal means of hurting oneself: weapons, pills, etc. If they have a plan.
If someone has been thinking about suicide, be there to support them. When I say this, I mean in person if that is possible. You’d be surprised to know how something small such as going to out to dinner, bringing them a meal, getting out and doing the things they used to enjoy can have a huge impact on their recovery. It might show them how much you care, are there to listen and not to preach, and that can help them feel wanted and like they belong. Showing them you want them to be around (and with no judgment) can help them to recover. And one more thing, tell them you want them around! A lot of times, suicidal people may feel that they are a burden to other people, or that they’re not wanted. If you show them that indeed are wanted, that they are loved, and they are needed, you could help save a life.
Encourage Them to Seek Support
Lastly, your friend is going to need some support in a professional capacity. Nowadays, there’s more support available for people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. You yourself won’t have all the answers. So a loving thing you can do for your friend would be to encourage them to seek out the services of a professional. Support groups can be very encouraging. Group therapy can be very beneficial. The reason for this is, there will never be any judgment, your friend will get to meet others like him or her who have “already been there and done that,” and most support groups are facilitated by a licensed mental health professional. In addition to group therapy, traditional one-on-one therapy, facilitated by a licensed mental health counselor can offer just as much support. Some types of one-on-one therapy are dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
If you or someone you love is going through a mental health crisis please call:
The National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (available 24/7)
In addition, there are also “friendship lines” available based on location.
Friendship Line: 888-448-9777 (M-F: 6-10pm Sat-Sun: 2-10pm)
Contra Costa Warmline: (408-279-8228)
North Bay Suicide Prevention Hotline of Napa Co: 1-855-587-6373
If you are located in the Bay Area and are suffering from Depression and/or suicidal thoughts, make an appointment with Megan Dozler, our therapist.
Call us: (888) 203-0113 We are here to help!